Monday, 9 April 2018

How Anger Management Can Help the UK Government Control Youth Homicide By Counsellor Funmi Ademilua

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The number of shootings and deaths in schools and neighbourhoods in London and across the UK have been on the rise. These incidences have continued to cause emotional distress to parents who end up losing their children to knife and gun violence, and who continue to believe that their communities are no longer safe from the most extreme of homicide cases.

This perception when combined with the increased lethality of youth violence requires that urgent measures be taken in preventing violence. There are hundreds of violence prevention measures that are been used in schools and communities, but very little is known about how effective they are. 

In order to prevent and reduce cases of homicide in the UK, we need to be able to first understand offenders. 

Understanding Anti-Social Behaviour and Conduct Disorders in Children and the Youth
According to the DSM-IV diagnostic system (APA 2000), antisocial behaviour refers to a certain characteristic of antisocial personality disorder. It specifically refers to failure to conform to social norms with regard to lawful behaviours as indicated by repetitively engaging in aggressive behaviors that are grounds for arrest, and that upset other people. These behaviours could include theft, violence, or even rape.

Among older children and young people, conduct disorders are considered the most common cause for mental health disorders, and globally, they are the top most reason why children and adolescents are referred to mental health services. 
Conduct disorders tend to not only be a burden to health care services, but also to social care agencies  as well as sectors of society such as family, police, schools and criminal justice agencies. 

The use of a weapon such as a knife, gun, broken bottle, brick or bat to cause serious physical harm to others is considered a conduct disorder under the Diagnostic Criteria (A) of DSM-IV.

How to Stop Violence through Anger Management and Counselling Programs 
From a psychologist’s point of view, it is not the mentally ill individuals that kill, but rather it is those people who are angry. It is normally extreme anger that causes people to commit violence. Having said that, it would be safe to conclude that violence is never a by-product of mental illness, but of anger.
A relatively weak connection exists between mental illness and gun violence, or any other type of violence with a stronger connection been seen between a person’s inability to manage anger and violence.

With the recurring incidences of mass shootings by people who most probably have emotional problems, people continue to associate mental illness with violent crimes. On the contrary, violent crimes are committed by individuals who lack the necessary skills to manage their anger.  Violence occurs as a result of compromised anger management skills, and a series of homicides are normally perpetuated by people who have a history of violence. 

Having said that, there needs to be greater acknowledgement of problem anger as a valid reason for referral to health care and greater use of anger screening tools as part of the assessment process. 
Increasing Counselling/Intervention Programmes 

The many killings that happen year in, year out, are often caused by marital or relationship breakups, disputes among family members, or even work termination. It is not rare to often hear police say that there is nothing much they can do because they have only been trained to react to violence, and not prevent it.
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Flowers left outside Walthamstow Leisure Centre
However, therapy ordered by the court, as well as restraining orders for those suspected of abuse and workers that exhibit violent tendencies in schools, and the community at large could go a long way in sparing hundreds, if not thousands, of lives each year because it would help conflicts to calm down and pass. 

Another strategy that would yield great benefits in the near future in as much as curbing violence is concerned would be to introduce conflict resolution lessons in schools at an early age. 
On the other hand, the introduction of cognitive therapy to young males in neighborhoods where criminal gangs are most prevalent can really help in reducing homicide rates. The therapy should particularly lay emphasis on peaceful conflict resolution and anger management.  In school setups, after-school cognitive therapy classes would be a cheap venture that would go a long way in reducing violence among the youth. 
Involvement of Psychologists/ Counsellors 

Counsellors and Psychologists should be involved in developing and evaluating programs and settings in schools, neighborhoods and other relevant contexts that seek to change gendered expectations for males that stress on toughness, self-sufficiency, as well as violence that includes gun violence.  Support offered by schools for young people with emotional or mental health issues varied considerably.  Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), report shows that 

``Thirteen per cent of schools do not have a policy or strategy to identify and help pupils with emotional, mental health or behavioural issues. Eighty per cent said the support provided by their school included referral to external support, 54% said support included a dedicated member of the pastoral team and 49% of members said their school offered group sessions for young people, for example in social skills, self-esteem and anger management``

Children and young people are not just statistics, but individuals with different strengths, interests and needs. Government also miss the point that young people perform better if they are supported and feel safe, and with young people spending a huge proportion of their time in school, it is vital that we create environments to support their emotional well-being and mental health.

Counsellor Funmi Ademilua   
                  The Good Samaritan Foundation UK

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